Tips for Homemade Pizza

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I’ve loved making pizza at home for as long as I can remember. I mean, maybe not when I was eight and I thought that homemade pizza meant those bagged, bread-like crusts and sauce that squirted out of a plastic packet, but anytime after that.

A lot of people think that making pizza at home isn’t worth the effort. When you can get Dominoes delivered to your house in less than 30 minutes, why would you bother with an hour-plus long activity?

The answer is, quality. I know there’s a good argument for eating cheap pizza. I’m not above it. But take a look at all your pizza eating experiences, and ask yourself if you were as satisfied by a store-made pie or one made with more attention and fresher ingredients? Maybe you’re satisfied by the former, but that’s not the case for me.

During the coronavirus pandemic, I started dreaming about my favorite Neapolitan pies. I decided to make some pizza at home. I don’t have a wood-fired oven, obviously, so some of the flavor is automatically gone. But I do have a decent oven, a rolling pin, and flour. And to be honest, that’s really all you need.

I find this video to be extremely helpful for making pizza. It shows you how to shape the dough, which is probably the scariest part of pizza making for most people. You start by setting a ball of dough (homemade or store bought) on a floured surface for 30 minutes. Cover it with a clean tea towel to protect the dough while it sits.

Then, remove the towel and start rolling out the dough from the center, turning it occasionally so you get a nice, even circle. Once it’s about 1/2 inch thick, take it in your hands and carefully turn it like a wheel so it spreads a little. I want to emphasize carefully, because this is the part where things can get a little out of control. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if the dough tears because it gets too thin, but you want to avoid this situation if possible.

After that, I like to take my thumbs and pat a crust into the dough. All it takes is digging your thumb into the dough, not so hard that it rips, but hard enough that it leaves an indentation.

Then, you can throw on all your toppings. Some of my favorites are marinara sauce, mozzarella pearls, and basil leaves, and pesto sauce with mushrooms and cheese.

Recently, I experimented with using cornmeal for the crust. I know a lot of people do it, but I wasn’t sure if it would work for me. I was especially skeptical of using it as the base to bake my pizza in the oven. I thought the pizza dough would stick to the baking sheet, but I was wrong.

If you want to go the cornmeal route, spread a decent amount over a baking sheet, and then carefully place your pie on top. Sprinkle more cornmeal over the crust.

Then you can bake your pizza for about 20 minutes in an oven set at 475 degrees F. I start checking at 20 minutes. Sometimes the pizza needs to bake longer. A good test is how the cheese looks. If it’s slightly brown, melted, and bubbly, and the crust has a nice golden brown sheen, you can probably take it out of the oven.

Writing this has inspired me to start a pizza making class. Maybe I will when the world goes back to normal.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this song.

About Emily Wasserman

Hi! My name is Emily and I'm a writer based in St. Louis. If I was stranded on an island and could request three items of food, they would be pain au chocolat, enchiladas, and Neapolitan pizza.
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